FESTIVAL The Baalbeck International Festival is the oldest cultural festival in the Middle East and has been taking place every year for the past 56 years.
It all began in 1956 when Camille Chamoun, president of the Lebanese Republic, declared the official creation of the Baalbeck Festival. The festiavl was launched with one key mission in mind; to promote the cultural and historical side of Lebanon and attract the attention of International tourists.
The breathtaking setting of the Baalbeck Festival just happens to be in the Bekaa Valley, one of the incredible wonders of the ancient world. The 'City of the Sun' provides the back drop of the festival, among historical ruins of Roman temples, the largest ever built in the world. The festival earned it's reputation as the main culturak event of the year with a programme that showcased some of the finest artists in the world in music, dance, theatre and art. The main events and performances take place at the Bacchus and Jupiter temples and at the steps of the Bacchus temple, one of the most magical sights in Baalbeck.
The festival soon became known for being the first public event to present shows in the world of Opera and classical music, as well as more contemporary jazz festivals. Many International stars have graced the festival with their prescence, from the iconic and sultry singing legend Ella Fitzgerald to Nina Simone and more recently Sting. The ever-growing popularity of the festival resulted in the creation of a drama school in 1966, with the aim to foster the talent of Lebanese artists and young performers.
Although Beirut's turbulent past and the unrest of the Civil war has at times disrupted the event's programme, The Baalbeck Festival's position as one of the world's leading cultural events, remains.
The festival takes place annually from July through to the end of August.
Text Karen Athwal